A Monster of a Race

Andy PetersonBy Andy Peterson

I thought I’d do a writeup of the Monster Adventure experience, covering not just the race, but also the teammate – Dan B. – one of the two great minds behind Hardy Breed. To the other – Jason – a tribute.  Jason was Dan’s original partner but could not make it for the race. For Jason, there’s a song for every occasion, so I’ve added links to music that is relevant, if only by their name. [The music is mostly hard and fast – just like Jason’s racing – listener discretion is advised 🙂 ]

An Unexpected Invite
It all started with a simple invitation: “Andy, ya wanna do an adventure race with me?” He could very well have said, “Andy, ya wanna endure over 5 hours of torture consisting of leg cramps, itchweed, flooded trails, sand in your shoes, killer climbs, and monster descents, all seasoned with occasional frustration and confusion?” My answer to either question was the same: “When do we start?” My only reservation was that Dan has smoked me all year and I was afraid that I’d slow him down. Who needs that kind of pressure? 
It’s true, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. Was my nemesis simply exercising the old adage, “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer?” But there was no denying it, he had me at “adventure.” I love the idea of mixing things up; combining multiple skill sets into one race. It’s why the multisport experience is so appealing, and an adventure race seemed to be the epitome of that. Just please, please don’t make me swim.
 
And so Chapter 2 of my relationship with Dan begins: From Nemesis to Ally. He picked me up the evening before and we headed west in style. We got to talking and almost crossed the Mississippi before we realized we had better figure out where we’re going. We checked in at the hotel and arrived at the Pre-Race Dinner with the race organizers. There, the organizers were peppered with questions, and all the while I was plagued with one of my own: “What do you mean we can’t go up for seconds?” But while my appetite for food was (eventually) satisfied, my appetite for racing had only grown. I couldn’t wait for the next morning. I got up before the alarm (set at 5:15), hit the shower, and then hit the lobby for some coffee and came back.

While Dan was showering, one of his gadgets beeped. I sifted through them. Which one was it? Was it the XM Satellite radio? No. Was it the Heart Rate Monitor? No. Radar Detector? No. Garmin? No. IPhone? Yeah, that was it! It was a text message from Jason, who was scheduled to meet us at the race to serve as our support. It read: “Diarrhea, vomiting, fever. I’m not coming. Sorry.” He really must have been Infected with something nasty. I thought about Jason, and how I got called up from the minors to fill in due to his injury, and I realized it was a really good thing he broke his collar bone, because if Jason got sick the morning of the race, Dan would have killed him right then.

I relayed the message to Dan, who replied with a text message of his own. I think it read, “2 Bad. L8R.” Kids today.

South Park Start
A crisp Autumn air greeted us and the sun began to Illuminate the darkness as we departed the hotel and made our way to the South Park Pavilion. We were handed a map with various destinations and highlighted, suggested routes to take. We memorized the street names as well as wrote them down on a cheat sheet, neither of which, as it turns out, did us much good. A short time later, we approached the starting point on our bikes. With one shoe clipped into the pedal, I was raring to go. But alas, it was not to be. A quick change of plans, says the organizer. We immediately hop off the bikes and run down a hill and find and retrieve a specific tag, which would be needed later. Huh? “Welcome to adventure racing,” I thought.

Back on the bikes and at last, The Wait Is Over. The racers took off en masse. Perhaps we were overzealous, but wasn’t long before Dan and I glided past the peloton and took the lead. Adrenaline was flowing. Our legs were ticking over the pedals nicely. We crested the top of the hill, and looked back… We were all alone. Dan I looked at each other, dazed and confused. In the distance, a dog barked. Did we get lost already? Dan pulled out the map and rode no handed as he concentrated. Sure enough, we missed a turn. Thankfully, we needed no adjustment to the route. As we reengaged with the recommended course, we looked behind us, and in the distance were several teams – a good half mile behind. A few more more mistakes like that one and we’ll win hands down! We headed into The Wilderness, our first checkpoint, for a trail run, followed by a trail ride.

“The Wilderness” – You’re Not Kidding
It was in The Wilderness that I was reunited with my first love – the trails. But oh, we were off to a rocky start. Like all relationships, there were some twists and turns, ups and downs, and the occasional mud flinging. A younger fella caught us during the trail run, but was kind enough not to take the lead so that Dan and I could take turns eating the spider webs and falling in the mud holes. “Young Freshie” was no dummy.

We pressed on. It was as if the course was designed to Destroy the Runner. At one point I was stumbling through a creek, sinking about 2-5 inches into silt with every step, when all of a sudden, two inches became two feet.  I was in mud past my knee. I struggled to get my leg out, cognizant of the fact that my foot better still have a shoe on it when I pulled it free of the muck and mire.

We transferred from run to bike. The Freshman was now out front. Nice guy, really, and it made for some friendly competition. After a creek crossing, with a mixture of mud and sand coating both us and our bikes, we realized the futility of attempting to bike any further. We carried our bikes, along with the the additional 10 pounds of earth that had accumulated on them, through a quarter mile of loamy, swampy ground, until finally, I could set my Cannondale Scalpel down and carve some trail.

After awhile, the Fresh Faced youngster, who was blazing the trail ahead of us, had turned around and was coming at us with a look on his face that made us think he lost his Nerve. Turns out he had feared he missed a checkpoint. We assured him it was still ahead, and off we went, down a patch of flat road, and into a steep climb. We dropped down into granny gear and spun up the hill at a high cadence. It was time to test him – could the Fresh Prince hang in the high hills of Quincy? We glance left, and there he is, off his bike, walking alongside us, keeping pace. Outstanding!

At long last, we depart the trails. Dan examines the map for our next checkpoint, and locates A Better Way than the route suggested by the race organizers. We take it, and it proves to be a wise move as we shave off what appears to be a mile of road, thanks to Dan’s keen mapology. And it was a good thing too – we would need every second of time made up here for the ensuing debacle.

Kayaking in Moorman Park
We arrived at Moorman Park, and after some confusion, we were eventually directed to the appropriate location to drop bikes, run to the kayak, and plunge it into the water. It was nice to be off the legs for awhile. We proceeded to methodically paddle to each hole punch, strung atop stakes protruding from the pond – all that is except one. Think giant floating puzzle, with one piece missing. What happened to it? Was it gone? Was it Sabotage? By the second lap around the pond in search for the missing hole punch, we were paddling hard enough to pull a skier. Finally we found it, hidden on the other side of a small island. At last, we could get out of the water, make our way through some obstacles, and get back on the bike for our first real urban assault through intersections and traffic. No mistakes here, just some good road riding. Next stop: The Veterans Run.

No Fun on the Veterans Run
We passed right by a lackadaisical Veterans Home checkpoint volunteer, from whom we got no love. If he wasn’t wearing earbuds I would have thought him to be one of the statues lining the parkway. He was reclining in the precise location on the map where we were to find the next hole punch, yet he motioned us further down the road.  It was at this point we realized that the Monster Race was beginning to test our patience as much as our endurance, but we managed to maintain our Composure. We fought back cramping and pushed through the route, guided only by a map. One more notch in our punch card as we finished up and headed back to South Park, where it all began.

Me ‘n Sandy
What’s worse than carrying forty pounds of sand on your back for two miles? NOTHING! Except perhaps a single axle trailer dropping onto your foot just before you’re to carry a sandbag for two miles. That’s just what happened when I set my sandbag atop the trailer to remove excess sand from it. It teetered like a see-saw with the weight of my sandbag, and crashed upon my foot.  I thought my toes were Broken. Other than that, the sandbag carry was wonderful. Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll go buy a bag of Sacrete at Lowes and just walk around town with it. On training races, I’m told Dan tosses one in his camel back for the extra challenge. When we emerged from the creek, we were informed it was time to take Sandy for a walk around the park. Yes, we were spending so much time together I felt it was time to give that ol’ bag a name. It was one park lap I won’t soon forget. With some of the looks we got, I felt as if we were in a Two Man Parade

When I got done, I felt as if a tremendous weight was lifted off my shoulders.

I’ll never forget you, Sandy. Nor will my lower back.

Up next – more obstacles, one of which consisted of two 5 gallon buckets attached to a string suspended by a pulley system hung on a branch of a large oak tree. The bucket on the ground had at least 10 lbs of sand in it, and the other was suspended in the air, about 5 feet above our heads. We were to toss bags of sand into that bucket until it outweighed the bucket on the ground and dropped. The biggest trick I quickly learned was to avoid getting bonked on the head by a missed shot from your teammate (I am pretty sure he wasn’t aiming for me).

Final Run
We were A Mile Away from victory, and now was a good time to look back at a great race that wrapped up a fun season. We let up our pace just a bit and used this time to relax and compare notes. Dan was a great teammate; his experience and tenacity made him the best partner one could ask for. I was thankful to have done the race, and to have done it with him instead of against him. We crossed the finish line, and I looked up at that clock, ticking away: 05:09:04…05:09:05…05:09:06…

Andy Peterson Monster Adventure

5 hours. The Older I Get, the more I’m aware of that clock’s tick. We can’t control it; rather, it controls us. It is what we do with the time we’re given that matters most. My kids, born just yesterday it seems, are now doing their own bike races. It won’t be long before they’re able to dust their old man. (Not that I will go down without a fight.) While racing for me is something I’ve loved since my Big Wheel days 35 years ago, the trick will always be to properly balance it with the more important things in life, things such as those represented by the final link in this article, below.

So that’s the story of my first adventure race. I wondered to myself, will this be my last, or the first of many? Time will tell. But with the race over, my only immediate concerns were to replenish, rehydrate, and relax. Now, where can I get something to eat?

Andy
1 Timothy 4:8

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